Coaching Begins with You (Part 1 of my 3-Part Series on Coaching Employees)
Coaching employees is one of the most challenging (and rewarding) responsibilities of leadership. The problem is that most ascendant leaders don’t receive coaching training until later (if at all) in their careers. This article, the first in a three-part series, will discuss what coaching is (and is not), guide you in developing your personal coaching philosophy, and outline practical tactics that you can use during coaching.
Let’s get started.
When I first meet with new leaders, I find they often have a great deal of enthusiasm about leading their team. Unfortunately, that fervor is typically blunted or tempered by confusion, apprehension, and a lack of clarity about the concept of coaching.
This necessitates exploring the question, “What is coaching?”
Coaching is not about correcting deficiencies, turning someone into a slightly different version of you, or having disciplinary conversations.
Coaching is about creating a new and continuously evolving mindset for yourself that enables you to create alignment between the:
1) Strategic goals of the organization;
2) Tactical objectives of your department; and
3) Capabilities, aptitude, competencies, and abilities of the individual being coached.
Let me explain…
- Think Strategically.
“Coaching” assumes you are privy to and have a firm grasp on your organization’s mission and strategic objectives. If you don’t understand these two components, you cannot be an effective coach. If you’re starting with a lack of clarity about strategy and mission, you’re going to need to do something scary—you will need to speak with someone who does understand those things and who can set you straight on where the organization is going.
No one ever likes to admit ignorance, but effective coaching requires you to grok the whole picture. Without this knowledge, it’s likely that you also won’t comprehend the underlying purpose of your department’s work or your role within the organization.
- Connect the Tactical.
Once you firmly understand your organization’s mission and strategic objectives, you must connect them with the tactical objectives (a.k.a. “the work”) of your department. If you can’t explain this connection verbally in under 30 seconds, then you either…
a. Still don’t understand the mission and strategy
b. Your department is not aligned with the rest of the organization—this does occasionally occur.
If the problem is your lack of understanding, but it is reflective of a broader organizational alignment issue, then developing your coaching skills is a secondary concern that must take a backseat until balance has been restored to The Force.
- Get Human.
To competently coach people, you need to know them. Get to know their interests, their competencies, and why they work for the organization. These are all important questions that not only allow you to connect with the person you’re coaching on a personal level but also to establish trust.
- Know Thyself.
We’ll talk more about the importance of knowing yourself in Part 2 of this series. For now, though, make sure you are honest with yourself about the following questions:
- Why do I work here?
- Do I feel connected or disconnected to the overall mission of the organization?
- What do I really know about who I am, how others perceive me, and why/when I’m at my best?
- What are my strengths and weaknesses?
- What coaching have I previously received that was positive or negative, and what did I learn from those experiences?
Questions like these will open the door for you to develop your personal coaching philosophy, which Part 2 of this series covers.
Many people I work with decry coaching employees as “hard work.” When I hear this and dig a bit deeper into why they feel that way, what I most often discover is that coaching others is not the problem; the problem is that the person I’m working with hasn’t adequately prepared to be a coach. This is not an indictment of the individual but more of a reflection on the fact that leadership training often occurs too late. With that said, it’s always easier to look outward than it is to look inward; good coaches don’t shy away from a hard, internal review.
I invite you to download a copy of my eBook Leadership in Real Life, which discusses how to know yourself better. And don’t miss Part 2 of this series, where you’ll learn how to develop your personal coaching philosophy and discover how to coach more strategically.